His name is Malcolm. I met him at an after school youth program where I was conducting the DCO mentoring project regarding sexual purity and teen pregnancy. I had just finished our third afternoon together and had shared a very difficult section of the DCO program with these inner city kids: the impact of fatherlessness on children and our society. Realizing the fact that over 70% of black children live in mother-only homes, I knew that the majority of these kids were living the statistics we just covered. It is always hard sharing this information with a group of teens when you know that. In order for them to see the need to make changes in their own lives, however, the truth must be shared.

As I put my projector, laptop and materials away, Malcolm came back into the room. Before they leave the center each day, they are all fed a meal and he had his plate of spaghetti with him. He sat down. I wasn’t sure why he came in there with me as all of the other kids were eating out in the main room together. It was just me and Malcolm. He said, “You know that stuff you said about kids not having a father?” I took a deep breath and said “yes.” “You are right. All I have ever wanted my whole life is for my dad to be there. I play football and I’m pretty good. He has never seen me play. He came around a little when I was a kid but I never see him anymore. I just don’t matter to him.” And then he began to cry. I thought my heart would burst open. I sat down beside this big, strong, football playing child and hugged him real tight and told him how sorry I was that he was hurting. I prayed for him. We talked, and then I left for the night. But Malcolm and I had shared a heart-bonding experience that night. He would talk to me, help me carry things to my car and volunteer to do things with our project. His words forever etched on my heart: “I just don’t matter to him.”

As the director of the Decisions, Choices & Options program for the past 14 years, I know all of the stats on fatherlessness and the impact it is having on our society. But the horrible consequences it has for children are etched on my heart because we meet them every single week. With over 41% of all children born in our country to unmarried mothers, it is a disastrous trend we must face and work hard to correct. This is not an indictment on single mothers. It is simply sharing what kids tell us in school after school, community after community: the lack of a father in a child’s life hurts. Married parents provide stability for children that they crave. The American Enterprise Institute (2015) even found that communities with high percentages of married parents provide greater economic security, less criminal activity and lower rates of teenage pregnancy. These are benefits our children deserve but also spill over into the health of our communities.

It is time to reach our kids with love, truth and hope. Encourage them to delay sexual activity until marriage. It has far-reaching benefits for us all.